Lakers losing may push LeBron James toward early retirement

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

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It’s hard to imagine the NBA without LeBron James, but that moment could be coming a lot sooner than we thought, thanks to the Lakers’ struggles.

The Lakers are 14-21, four games out of a potential spot in the play-in tournament but also just four games out of last place in the Western Conference. It’s been a difficult year for the entire team and with Anthony Davis out for the foreseeable future and very little cause for optimism on the horizon, you can tell things are wearing on LeBron James.

As he celebrates his 30th birthday, it appears LeBron is giving some additional thought to retirement and how he’d like the end of his career to play out.

What did LeBron James say about retirement?

After the Lakers’ loss, Kyle Goon of the Orange County register shared some candid thoughts from LeBron on the question of retirement.

“I don’t have a number. I know as long as my mind stay in it, I can play at this level for a minute… I will make sure my body is taken care of and I’ll continue to put in the work.”

“I think about how much longer I’m going to play the game… I don’t want to finish my career playing at this level from a team aspect. I’ll still be able to be [competing] for championships because I know what I can still bring to any ball club with the right pieces.”

“I think about my son graduating high school soon, going off to college and I’m still playing. My youngest son will be a junior next year — how much more time I’ll miss. So throughout the course of a day, to the weeks, to the months, I think about a little bit of everything. You know? Think about how much of the world I’ll see when I’m done playing the game. At the end of the day, I keep the main thing the main thing.”

The beginning part of this quote, about how losing is not in his DNA, had already been circulating but the comments on retirement add some additional context.

On the one hand, he seems to be saying he wants a chance to win again and doesn’t want to finish his career on a down note. That would seem to indicate he’ll stick around for a chance to go out on top. But if it becomes obvious that the Lakers (or anywhere else he might sign) can’t really get him to that point, it could lead him to call things a bit early. In the last paragraph, he sounds wistful talking about how much of Bronny’s high school career he’s missed and how much more of his younger son Bryce’s he’ll miss if he plays for a few more years.

Everything obviously seems to hinge on whether the Lakers can get back to a championship level. As of right now, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Damian Jones and Max Christie are the only players the Lakers will have under contract next season, with Russell Westbrook coming off the books and restricted free agency looming for Austin Reaves. They’ll have an opportunity to dramatically rebuild the roster around their two stars with free agents like Khris Middleton, Kyrie Irving, Kristaps Porzingis, D’Angelo Russell, Draymond Green, Fred VanVleet, Harrison Barnes, Jerami Grant, Myles Turner and more potentially available.

This season may not end the way LeBron is hoping, but things could look a lot brighter 12 months from now.

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